Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

AZ Prison Privatization Update

Also forwarded by the guys at Private Corrections Institute . This has got to be one of the most idiotic ideas the legislature actually put on the table, and I can't believe the Governor is considering it. Let's not allow this article to lull us into any kind of complacecny, or the next thing we'll know our family members will be auctioned off to CCA.


Arizona plan to privatize prisons may not fly
By Paul Davenport
The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.07.2009

PHOENIX — Arizona’s plan to turn over its prisons to private companies in exchange for a $100 million upfront payment is having trouble getting off the drawing board, with the plan behind schedule and private prison operators showing little, if any, interest.

The privatization effort is required under a law enacted last summer as lawmakers struggled to close a huge budget shortfall. It directs the state to award a contract to one or more private companies to run an unspecified number of prisons for $100 million.

It emerged as Republican lawmakers cast about for alternatives to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to increase the sales tax to avoid deep cuts to state program.

An official who worked on the law told The Associated Press that the $100 million figure was based on hope, not certainty.

The prison concession provision doesn’t specify which or how many of the state’s 10 prison complexes would be included, what would happen to current state employees or the length of a contract. An early version specified a term of 50 years and identified three prisons with approximately 11,000 beds.

The Yuma prison complex was excluded from the law at the insistence of a Yuma legislator.

State officials were supposed to provide an initial batch of information to potential bidders on Oct. 1, but missed the deadline. But even without that, there appears to be little interest among private-prison companies.

Corrections Corp. of America, the nation’s largest private prison company, “is not focused on that,” said Louise Grant, a CCA vice president. Grant said CCA is interested in pursuing traditional private-prison deals with states and would review any Arizona request. However, “it’s very questionable whether or not we would participate,” she said.

Another operator, Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group, declined to comment, citing corporate policy. A third, Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, issued a noncommittal response.

Arizona is among many states that contract with private companies to house state inmates, but officials and industry observers say the large upfront payment request may be unprecedented.

“That is such a new idea. The model hasn’t been done,” said Leonard Gilroy, a Reason Foundation official who champions privatization of government services. Gilroy questioned whether Arizona’s plan would be attractive enough for potential bidders in the industry.

“It’s sort of like ’we want you to do an operational contract and loan us $100 million,”’ Gilroy said. “I don’t know if there’s enough there to sweeten the pot for the private sector.”

Democratic legislators have questioned whether the state should turn control of violent maximum-security offenders, including murderers on death row, to private operators. Little is known about how the plan would be implemented, including whether it would include the Eyman prison complex in Florence that includes death row.
Citing procurement confidentiality, state officials declined to release a draft of the document they plan to send to bidders. (that's BS - the public should have access to all this information!!)

Corrections Director Chuck Ryan declined multiple requests for an interview in recent weeks. But he told legislators during a May hearing that it was “very concerning” to consider privatizing a major prison complex that houses nearly all death row inmates and 1,000 other dangerous inmates.

Privatizing death row involves taking a chance, Ryan said. “It won’t stand the headline test in my opinion.”
A leader of a union representing prison guards criticized the plan and suggested that public safety could be at risk.
“They’re trying to replace us with lower-paid guards, to handle sex offenders, murders, rapists, inmates with very volatile gang connections,” said J. “J-Rod” Rodriguez, vice president of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said during the May hearing that the prisons concession had been proposed by House Republicans during budget negotiations and was based on “very good numbers” from an investment firm.

However, a top House Republican aide said lawmakers and legislative aides came up with the idea as a way “to monetize state assets,” such as Indiana and Chicago have done with toll highways.

“Well, Arizona doesn’t have toll roads and there aren’t a lot of assets that can be monetized. That was sort of the genesis of the idea,” said Grant Nulle, House director of fiscal policy.

There was no research by an investment firm or anybody else, Nulle said. And the $100 million payment appears unlikely.

“Based on preliminary feedback, we may find it difficult to generate an upfront payment of this magnitude,” legislative budget director Richard Stavneak wrote in an Oct. 22 memo.

Even if the state does receive good bids, it will take most of the fiscal year to try to implement the idea, so lawmakers shouldn’t count on getting the money in time to help close the current budget’s shortfall, Stavneak said in a recent interview.

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